Remediated Bodies, Corporeal Images in Gábor Bódy’s Narcissus and Psyche



Gábor Bódy’s Narcissus and Psyche (Nárcisz és Psyché, 1980) shows a remarkable openness towards theoretical queries related to the body, the image as well as to their intricate relation. It adapts to screen Sándor Weöres’s Psyché, published in 1972, a biography in verse and prose drawing the figure of a forgotten early 19th-century Hungarian poet, László Tóth Ungvárnémeti, counterpointed by the figure and oeuvre of a fictitious poetess, Erzsébet Lónyai. Going far beyond the scope of screen adaptation, Bódy’s monumental film experiment of encyclopedic character, conceived in the spirit of the “new narrativity” and “new sensitivity” of the 1980s, becomes a multilayered, intermedial and self-reflexive meditation upon the eye as the connecting link between the body and the image, as the sensory organ privileged in the course of the separation of the senses and the industrial remapping of the body taking place in the nineteenth century (Jonathan Crary). Thus, the intertwining story of Narcissus and Psyche, extending over several generations, turns into the narrative of the history of evolution of optical media, from the laterna magica, through Marey’s chronophotography and Muybridge’s photo sequences, to the birth of the moving image, as well as into a reflection upon the discourses of the body from nineteenth-century medicine, through Avant-Garde performances, to Neo-Avant-Garde body art manifestations. The conceptual basis of the film is serialism, resulting in the simultaneous presence of the early modern anatomizing view of the body (called “bioradicalism” and “metanaturalism” by Bódy), the representations of the body in historical Avant-Garde, as well as perceptions of the body pointing towards contemporary phenomenologies. Through the anatomic representation of the ill bodies, male and female, the film carries out an ample criticism of representation, rethinking film in terms of the corporeality of the medium, reinscribing corporeal perception and haptic visuality (Laura U. Marks) into cinematic experience.

Keywords: Hungarian experimental filmmaking, Gábor Bódy, corporeality, serialism, haptic visuality.